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Audio Branding: How VW giveth & AT&T taketh away Nick Drake's value

Posted by Dale Berkebile on Wed, Oct 27, 2010

BW Audio Branding VW ATT 2

Audio Branding is an interesting thing. Whether you know it or not audio branding has become part of your life through commercials and adversing campaigns.

Wikipedia says this about Audio Branding:
Sound branding
(also known as audio branding, sonic branding, acoustic branding or sonic mnemonics) is the use of sound to reinforce brand identity. Sound branding is increasingly becoming a vehicle for conveying a memorable message to targeted consumers, taking advantage of the powerful memory sense of sound.

Think of jingles like Travelocity.com where the URL is sung, Kit Kat's - give me a break, give me a break, and Almond Joy & Mounds' - Almond Joy's got nuts, Mounds don't. The last two are so popular these days and have been used so long, that both Kit Kat and Almond Joy have dropped the words. I caught my wife singing the almond joy song and when asking how this got in her head she said the last commercial sang the song. When I rewound the DVR, the commercial in no place sung the words at all. It was only the song sans-words.

The point is this – adding sensory items to your branding is powerful stuff and can help bring people to the brand or totally turn them off from the brand.

Here is an example. In 2000 or 2001 Volkswagen did a commercial for the Cabrio see below ad.

This commercial spoke to me. Not only because sometimes it is better to be with a close group of friends listening to quality music (than dealing with the unpredictable loud chaos of a big gathering or party), but also because this song was the perfect fit for this thought and just really catchy. Now this was pre-Shazam days. You know when you had to actually work hard to find out where a song came from, if you did not all ready know the song/band.

Anyhow, after hours and hours of research maybe a few weeks or a month later I found out this song was Pink Moon by Nick Drake. That day I went to the music shop and bought not only the song (pre-itunes), but a 5 disc collection, because this was all that was available in the Nick Drake collection at this time. $50+ dollars to buy one great song with a hope that I would get a lot more with this gamble. Of course I love all Nick's work now.

Let's fast-forward to 2010. I am now listening to Nick Drake for years and love that he is still pretty obscure. Then AT&T of all companies decides to use another Nick Drake Song, see video below.

Sadly though every time this commercial comes on… I cringe. You see AT&T provides very poor service in my opinion. I once had them shut down my business DSL because they didn't like getting so many calls to service my account (due to their poor quality service and location, not user error). Although, I use them for my cell phone, I would drop them in a heartbeat for another provider if you could get iPhone service through someone else.

So because of the poor service I have had for years and years with AT&T, it really irks me that they have used such a good song. You see in my mind this quality song does not match their service offerings. Honestly a better fit would be some Weird Al song. This would be fitting because although Weird Al is a musician, he does it riding the back of others. Seems fitting for AT&T.

So this example is not meant to be a forum to bitch about AT&T's poor service, but more to show the power of sound and audio branding.

Nick Drake has a certain level of quality in my mind. AT&T does too, but they are not on the same level so this is a mixed message in my mind and why I become irritated every time this commercial plays.

It is important to find the right brand fit for your audio branding. This means understanding your audience and how they will feel about the song or jingle you use. Remember do what is best for them, not you.

What are your thoughts or audio branding? Do you have any similar experiences with audio branding? Share your ideas and thoughts below in the comment section of this article.

Tags: Branding

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